Theme: All Authority
In this week’s lessons on the Great Commission, we are promised that Jesus is with us to the very end as we obey his command to go into all the world to make other disciples.
Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20
Yesterday we ended by mentioning the first part of Christ’s authority, which is his authority in heaven. Today we look at the other three.
2. Authority over spiritual forces. Jesus’ claim to have been given all authority in heaven probably extends also to what in other passages are described as principalities and powers, that is, all spiritual forces, including those which are demonic. Paul wrote about these in Ephesians 6 in his classic description of the Christian’s warfare: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v. 12).
Paul was reminding the Ephesians that the battles we wage are spiritual and the enemies we face, demonic—in our struggle to be Christ’s disciples and witness for Him in this world. But we are not to be dismayed or unnerved by this knowledge, since these powers as well as all others have been brought under Jesus’ rightful sway. Earlier in the letter Paul wrote that God “raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Eph. 1:20, 21).
3. Authority over His disciples. When Jesus says that “all authority . . . on earth” has been given to Him, this includes those who are on the earth, among them Christ’s disciples. His authority obviously extends to them. It extends to their conduct, for, as we have seen, He has called them to follow Him, and this means to follow Him in obedience to His commands. He said: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). If we are not obeying Jesus, we are not His friends; indeed, we are not even His disciples; we are not even saved.
The authority of Christ also extends to the work His disciples are called upon to do. The Great Commission emphasizes this work chiefly. It is because we are under the authority of Jesus that we are to take His gospel to the world, making “disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” He has commanded us (vv. 19, 20).
4. Authority over the nations. The fourth area to which the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ extends is those nations or people who do not yet acknowledge His authority but to whom He sends us. It is this that makes Christianity a world religion. In the ancient world there were scores of ethnic religions in which a god or gods were perceived as deities of a people but whose authorities were limited to that people only. Not so with Jesus. He was born in the ancient homeland of the Jews and spent nearly the whole of His earthly ministry among them, but His religion is not Jewish. No more is it Greek or Roman or western European or American. It is an earth-embracing religion, because Jesus has been given authority over all the earth. His religion breaks all barriers of race, culture, language, sex, and status. John Stott says, “Only because all authority on earth belongs to Christ dare we go to all nations. And only because all authority in heaven as well is his have we any hope of success.”2
From the study, what are the three other areas of Christ’s authority?
How does Jesus demonstrate his authority over each one?
Application: Make a list of some ways you see Christ’s authority being challenged in our own day, and pray specifically for his rightful authority to be acknowledged by those who need to repent and trust in him for salvation.
2John R.W. Stott, “The Great Commission” in One Race, One Gospel, One Task: World Congress on Evangelism, Berlin 1966, Official Reference Volumes, ed. Carl F.H. Henry and W. Stanley Mooneyham (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1966), 1:46.